BY PAUL LEBOWITZ
WON Staff Writer
(Updated March 2, 5:00 pm)
The forces attacking Dan Richards over a legal Idaho mountain lion hunt have opened a new front. On Thursday, Kathy Bowler, a former executive director of the California Democratic Party, filed an ethics complaint alleging Richards has violated political gifting rules.
The complaint before the California Fair Political Practices Commission charges that Richards' hunt had a retail value of $6,800, far exceeding the allowed $480 annual limit.
Joseph Peterson, manager of the Flying B Ranch where Richards shot his cougar, told WON that Richards traveled to the ranch to hunt upland birds. The 5,000 acre ranch has a lot of mountain lions, and they're decimating the local deer herd. "In the last year, I've seen 6, 8, 10 cats myself while I'm out working," Peterson said.
When ideal hunting conditions presented themselves, the plan changed. "It was an extra favor to me. He was helping in wildlife management here on my ranch," Peterson said.
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Richards provided a service, thus, it wasn't a gift. The complaint seems to be a further attempt to dirty Richards' name, as so far his attackers have not been able to claim any transgression over than an action they personally find distasteful.
Meanwhile, the invective continues to fly. According to the San Jose Mercury News, State Sentator Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said "This guy has acted as a jackass. When you hold a high public position, you have a responsibility to act with decorum."
Richards took to the radio airwaves of the KFI John and Ken Show, where he fired back at the Humane Society, the animal rights group at the head of the effort behind the calls for Richards' ouster.
"They are constantly trying to shut down fishing and hunting and anything associated with it in the state," Richards said.
Richards maintains he has done nothing wrong.
Tom Harman, R-Orange County, one of a group of ten state senators who signed a letter in support of Richards on Thursday, called him "the prey in a politically driven hunt that has nothing to do with the legal taking of a lion in Idaho and more to do with a political agenda of animal rights activists and environmentalists."
Harman warned that the legislative removal of a commissioner over a legal matter could have far-reaching repercussions.
"If the legislature can remove someone from a commission for essentially no reason other than they find the person's activities distasteful, what message does it send to equally dedicated individuals serving on other boards and commissions around the state? How many other commissioners will end their independent thinking to conform with political ties in an attempt to keep their jobs?" he asked.
"This uncalled for push... is an unprecedented attempt to stack the commission in favor of liberal interests, much to the chagrin of those with differing views," he added.
Meanwhile, the NRA Legislative Institute issued an action alert on Richards' behalf. "Those demanding his removal are the same who most often claim that tolerance is essential in government. The reality is they are "tolerant" only of those beliefs and activities with which they agree," the NRA statement said in part.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation joined in with a letter of support.
The FFPC is the same body that refused to sanction Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton for participating in votes in which he was alleged to have conflicts of interest. Sutton, an employee of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, made numerous votes related to proposed Marine Life Protection Act plans overseen in part by Meg Caldwell, who at the time served as both a member of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Board of Trustees.